2007, McDougal and Domenech Rodríguez surveyed faculty advisors and student
members of Psi Chi to examine leadership characteristics and chapter outcomes
(McDougal & Domenech Rodríguez, 2008). In the spring 2007 survey, we
secured participation from 259 faculty advisors from across the nation.1 Amid
survey questions, faculty advisors were asked the open-ended question: "What
would help you be a better faculty advisor to your local Psi Chi chapter?” We
wanted to share with you the fascinating answers to this seemingly simple
Of those participating faculty members, a robust 160 (62%) provided information
on the open-ended question. Comments were short (range of 1 to 217 words [M =
27.8, SD = 31.9]). Given their brevity, their similarities and depth were
surprising. A review of these responses showed a clear pattern of responses
that could be helpful to local chapters, regional vice-presidents, and the Psi
Chi National Council and National Office. Moreover, these findings may be of
interest, and possibly even validating, to faculty advisors who are trying to
be the best possible faculty advisors they can be.
Faculty advisors were primarily female (62.5%) and White American (88.1%), with
an average age of almost 41 years (SD = 10.9). Male faculty advisors were
slightly older (M = 44.0, SD = 11.4) than females (M = 38.8, SD = 10.2).
Faculty advisors had been in the position a mean of 5.7 years, with a range of
1 month to 30 years. All Psi Chi regions were represented: Eastern (30%),
Midwestern (29.5%), Southeastern (21.8%), Southwestern (8.7%) Western (6.8%),
and Rocky Mountain (3.2%). These numbers are somewhat consistent with the
"size” of the regions.
I need time!
The primary theme that emerged from these open-ended responses was that faculty
advisors needed more time engaged with the role. Fully 42.5% (n = 69) of those
who provided responses stated that they needed more time. One faculty member
humorously wrote that she needed "The 28 hour day....” While most were general
in their response, one faculty advisor provided information of special
Time. I'm still new at this and am slowly learning all the ways
Psi Chi can benefit our students. Psi Chi was inactive before I was appointed
as faculty advisor so I'm essentially trying to raise a Phoenix from the ashes
without any help from the former advisor or knowledge[able] members of Psi Chi.
All I have to go on is the Handbook— and that is a lot of information to
the context of limited time, another faculty advisor shared her struggles in
choosing to remain a faculty advisor. She described balancing her
disappointment in her performance based on self-imposed standards and yet
understanding that her "lesser” performance is potentially "greater” than most
others might give:
Right now, I feel isolated and uncertain, although I recognize
that that is due to my inability to make Psi Chi a priority and give it the
time it really deserves. I enjoy my role of Psi Chi advisor, but feel like I'm
not the advisor that the chapter needs to be all that it can be. On the other
hand, I think I'm doing much better than what would happen if I weren't
advising, because I do put time and energy into making it work, and I'm not
sure any of my current colleagues would do so.
other faculty mentioned time constraints in the context of their multiple
roles. For example, I don't know that there is any
more the National Office could do to help. Serving as faculty advisor to Psi
Chi takes more time than most other service roles in the department, and yet
only about 5% of my distribution of effort can be assigned to service. Since I
also serve on department committees (e.g., curriculum committee), and this is
part of the 5%, that doesn't leave much time for me to work on and ponder ways
to strengthen our Psi Chi chapter.
I need active chapter members!
The second, most common challenge was related to student participation. Many
faculty complained about student participation overall (n = 36). Faculty also
mentioned specifically challenges in motivating students to be more involved
and challenges with leadership abilities of their local council members. One
faculty member wrote, it would help if the students
understood the value of Psi Chi. There is no institutional example/memory for
them, so they don't understand that Psi Chi can be an active group.
faced practical constraints:
I don't have a consistent number of old members. We are
basically a 2 yr school (junior and senior) with a brand new smattering of
freshmen. This year there is one old Psi Chi member. We are having an induction
in a few weeks—then most of these people will graduate.
faculty member took a more philosophical stance:
I try to maintain that Psi Chi is a student run organization—
and as such, there is wide variability in how involved Psi Chi is on campus.
Our success depends on the students at the time. To establish a more consistent
presence, I founded and run [a] Colloquia Series … but this tends to be where
most of my time goes. Unless, that is, we have a rare semester with highly
reported important contextual considerations, for example, our school is still coping with the issues of having
mostly working/commuter students which decreases the amount of time they can
spend on extra-curricular activities.
addition to student composition, school size was noted:
It also hurts that we have a relatively small cadre of
undergrad's in our department (70-80 majors) and it's hard to organize many
activities with the minority that choose to take part in Psi Chi.
faculty advisor questioned whether student involvement was necessary:
Our chapter is not very active. Students are happy to get the
honor but are not very interested in being involved. Perhaps this is not a
problem at all. If Psi Chi is strictly an honors society then being involved
may not be necessary. This seems to be the attitude in our chapter.
faculty advisors had very specific student-related challenges, for example,
it’s difficult to get the Psi Chi officers to engage the Psi Chi
web page system.
same advisor recommended, How about a brochure that
could be given to the Psi Chi officers each year that would instruct them on
how to log into this system and their responsibilities for record keeping?
faculty advisor lamented not having an efficient
means of transitioning between officers (some years it is a breeze [,] other
years it feels like I'm running the organization).
a more positive vantage point, a faculty advisor stated,
I think the thing that has been most useful in getting myself
that type of information is having energetic, responsible, and proactive
student officers to whom I can delegate those responsibilities.
the notion that student involvement is critical to local chapters’ success.
I need training and consultation!
A sizeable (n = 25) number of faculty advisors mentioned a desire for either
formal training and/or contact with other faculty advisors. Some faculty wanted
resources and training from the National Office and/or regional VPs.
Specifically, 14 faculty advisors reported that some formal training for them
in assuming the role for the local chapter would help them be better advisors.
One participant expressed it well and offered a recommendation,
Ideally, I think it would be fantastic if I were able to go to a
conference or professional meeting that was specifically geared toward helping
orient faculty advisors, help work on chapter development, and other Psi
Chi-oriented tasks. This would be especially valuable if Psi Chi could offer
funding for advisors to travel to such a conference.
in this domain wanted contact with other faculty advisors who could provide a
more consistent and tailored opportunity for mentorship and guidance in the
faculty advisor role.
I need to know more about what I don’t know
At least 15 faculty reported needing more experience in order to be better
faculty advisors. Of these, seven explicitly stated not knowing enough to be
able to identify what might make them better faculty advisors. One respondent
was especially eloquent:
I am so new I just need a year under my belt to learn what I
need to learn. I don't even know enough to know what questions I need to ask
I need …
There were many other needs noted, and in the spirit of making everyone’s
voices heard, we have listed those that were mentioned by at least 3 faculty.
I need more institutional support.
A number of faculty (n = 13) mentioned institutional barriers to their
effectiveness, including general support, departmental support and/or
recognition, more faculty involvement, and practical support. On this last
item, one faculty member noted, it would be helpful if
our registrar would get the transcripts to our department in a more timely
fashion so I can look for prospective new members who qualify.
also mentioned specifically desiring more faculty involvement (n = 4),
secretarial support (n = 2), and course releases (n = 2) to handle the demands
of the position. One faculty alluded to the desire for institutional support in
the form of a simple recognition:
recognition of the role of Psi Chi advisor that could be
communicated to the department and recognized by the University.
I need to put forth more effort.
A few faculty (n = 5) specifically mentioned that they needed to put forth more
effort without any qualifiers. One faculty offered an interesting perspective
on her advising approach:
I think that one of the key issues is the advisor's 'philosophy'
toward Psi Chi. I see it as a 'student club'—so it succeeds and/or fails
according to the leadership. I see myself as a resource person. My own failing
is not knowing as much about what Psi Chi has to offer than I should have ….
Our students are just too busy to put much time into Psi Chi. We are looking
into the idea of members earning points toward having their medallions paid
I need a coadvisor.
Some faculty (n = 3) thought a coadvisor would be beneficial:
A coadvisor, so that I wouldn't have to do everything by myself.
I get help on specific events or activities when I ask. It would be nice to
have someone there regularly and not have the entire responsibility.
Thoughts for the National Office
Faculty noted a desire for more information about Psi Chi resources (n = 14),
specifically about regional conferences (n = 2), regional and national
initiatives (n = 1), research grants and opportunities (n = 9), and specific
ideas for chapter activities (n = 1). Here are some of the ideas:
- A handbook
(of sorts) with information about Psi Chi and all the programs/grants
available from Psi Chi National all compiled in one place (including
descriptions and general deadlines). I realize that much of the
information is available online, however one needs to know that it exists
in order to search for it.
- Perhaps an
online bulletin board/blog for advisors to ask and answer each others'
emails describing specific opportunities that can be digested and
forwarded to interested students.
- … a
certificate of acknowledgement for my tenure file would be very nice. Psi
Chi advisement is quite time consuming, and is one of the service
activities of which I am most proud. Although I have documentation of our
chapter activities, I have very little 'official' documentation from
national for my file. I know this sounds petty, but for those of us who
are pretenure (and I know there are many!), this could be very helpful.
- A few
emailings beginning with a few bulleted points with URLs to click on for
detailed information. OR, anything that streamlines the process.
- I think it
might be helpful if there were programs and ideas to help programs at
small schools (such as how to network with other schools, funds for
speakers [,] etc.)
mechanisms to support minority institutions. The faculty at these
institutions are usually overburdened with teaching & [and] advising
and have to work with students of limited skills. However, we are asked to
compete for recognition with much larger and prestigious schools.
few faculty offered words of praise for the National Office. One of our
overworked faculty advisors said he "always gain[s]
more insight at the advisors' luncheons and other events at regional and
national conventions.” At least five other faculty advisors offered
unprompted praise for the National Leadership Conference. One even noted that
regional leadership conferences "would be a great
help as well.”
Overall, local chapter advisors showed a certain degree of convergence when
identifying what they need to be "better faculty advisors.” We were struck
especially by the stated needs for more time, more active students, and
training/consultation which were voiced by many faculty advisors. One could
argue that 16% of the sample (25 of 160) is a relatively small number; however,
it is critical to keep in mind that these responses were spontaneously
generated. It is quite likely that, should these issues be presented in a
survey form to chapter advisors, the number of faculty who would endorse them
as relevant would be much higher. We are hopeful that the information presented
here will (a) be validating to faculty advisors who have been struggling to
lead their local chapters—you are not alone in your struggles, (b) serve as a
foundation for future Psi Chi focused research, and (c) serve as a spring board
for discussions at the regional and national level for Psi Chi in creating and
augmenting programs that support our faculty advisors in what can be a
tremendously satisfying yet thankless task. In the mean time, we would like to
turn into advice, the sage struggle of one of our faculty respondents,
"Patience my dear ... patience.”
McDougal, K., & Domenech Rodríguez, M. M. (2008). Factors affecting Psi
Chi members’ satisfaction with research opportunities. Retrieved April 21,
2008, from http://www.psichi.org/
Listening to Faculty Advisors’ Voices
Virginia Andreoli Mathie, Psi Chi Executive Director
Members of the Psi Chi National Council and National Office greatly appreciate
the dedicated service and leadership provided by you, the Psi Chi chapter
faculty advisors. We know it takes much time and effort on your part to advise
a chapter. We want to know your needs and concerns and respond to your requests
for assistance. We welcome your suggestions for new resources that will help
you in your faculty advisor role. We thank Domenech Rodríguez and McDougal for
their informative survey and would like to take this opportunity to highlight
some suggestions and existing resources that might address some of the faculty
advisors’ needs they identified in their research.
I need time!
- Use the Faculty Advisors’ Resource Page webpage to get immediate
assistance with questions that frequently arise in your role as a faculty
- Use the Chapter Activity Guide webpage to save time
generating ideas for chapter activities and projects.
- Invite another faculty
member to serve as a coadvisor for your chapter and share the
responsibilities and workload.
I need active chapter members!
- Request free copies of
the new Psi Chi brochure that highlights the
benefits of being a Psi Chi member.
- Distribute copies of Eye
on Psi Chi so that your chapter members can read about the winners of Psi
Chi’s grants and awards and the many activities described in the Chapter
- Watch for the upcoming
e-book that will compile Psi Chi resources that help students succeed in
their chapter, college, and career and help chapters enhance their
- Forward the link to the
document "Using the Psi Chi Website” to assist your
chapter officers in using the Psi Chi website.
- Use the Chapter
Handbook and the Chapter
Officer Guidelines to inform your chapter officers about their
duties and to assist with the transition to new officers.
- Partner with another Psi
Chi chapter (or a Psi Beta chapter) in your vicinity to share the workload
of planning programs and to increase the number of people at Psi Chi
I need training and consultation!
- Register for the next Psi
Chi National Leadership Conference that will be held in Nashville, TN
January 2–4, 2009. Psi Chi will provide funding assistance to many of the
- Attend the Psi Chi
faculty advisors’ appreciation breakfast or lunch at your regional
psychology conference to talk informally with other faculty advisors.
- Attend sessions for
faculty advisors offered at your Psi Chi regional psychology conference.
If your region does not offer such a program, contact the Psi Chi regional
vice-president and suggest this session.
I need from the National Office
- Use the CD in the Psi Chi
annual fall mailing to chapters to get a complete set of Psi Chi
handbooks; forms for chapters, chapter officers, and members; and cover
sheets for Psi Chi awards and grants.
- Forward to your chapter
officers each issue of the Psi Chi Digest containing bulleted
announcements and reminders of upcoming deadlines for Psi Chi awards,
grants, and other programs.
- See the Psi Chi website
for information about Certificates of Appreciation for Psi Chi
- Check the Psi
Chi National Office website to identify the staff person to
contact when you have questions or need assistance. Remember staff members
are there to help you! Don’t hesitate to contact us for assistance.